International Festival
of Computer Arts

Project

Extractor

  • Installation
Artist Simon Denny
Extractor

Extractor is a dystopian board game that maps the possible dynamics of global data-driven businesses or 'platforms' as they compete for world domination. The vast accumulation of data needed for this goal is set against a backdrop of aggressively 'extractive' business practices and the impact they have on the planet. Extraction is a fundamental mechanism of most industries, with a small few accumulating great wealth by extracting value from the earth and the majority of its population. In the universe of Extractor, these global platforms – and aspiring monopolies – automate extraction processes and dominate industry, exhausting resources and polarising society in their wake.

In the game you build your own data platform, beginning as a small start-up on a free-hosting on-demand 'cloud' computing service, similar to Amazon Web Services' Free Tier Cloud subscription. Your platform is represented by a player token in the form of a robot­like figure, modelled after a sculpture by the artist Nam June Paik. You improve your cloud infrastructure, moving to a paid rental cloud and then to your own proprietary cloud built from private server farms. Each stage allows for accelerated data accumulation, propelling you towards a meteoric win with maximum data in the proprietary cloud. Between each of these tiered steps, your platform increases in profitability, but also in risk. A 'virtual assistant' (similar to Amazon's Alexa or Apple's Siri) guides you, delivering news and instructions such as notices of government regulation policy updates or climate­change-related earth events. The virtual assistant character takes the form of the critically endangered King lsland Brown Thornbill bird from Tasmania, which is projected to become extinct within the next twenty years.

The commercially produced board game includes critical essays and ruleset booklet, custom injection moulded plastic pieces, offset print on various paper and card stock, and vacuum formed packaging components.

Courtesy of the artist, Petzel gallery and Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York

Commissioned for Simon Denny MINE (8 June 2019–17 March 2020) by the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), Hobart, Australia. Photo: Jesse Hunniford/MONA